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4-H club hosts rodeo for true sweethearts
PURVIS – There was no shortage of sweethearts at a recent biannual rodeo in Lamar County.
“The sweethearts of this rodeo are the individuals in the community with special needs, but the 4-H members and volunteers are pretty special, too,” said Kimberly Wilborn, Lamar County 4-H agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
On March 16, members of the Turners and Burners 4-H Club hosted their sixth Sweetheart Rodeo, an activity that earned them the commissioner of agriculture and commerce’s Banner Club award for 2012. Members of the community have helped produce the labor-intensive project since 2010.
“We need lots of hands on deck to make this event safe and fun for everyone,” Wilborn said. “All the volunteers come with humble and generous attitudes. It is a real learning experience for the youth, who may not have had many opportunities to interact with special-needs individuals.”
Lisa Cox, the club’s volunteer leader, said the two-hour event is more than an opportunity to expose these individuals to farm animals and other rodeo-themed activities.
“Our guests obviously enjoy seeing and doing things they don’t normally get to do, but I’m pretty sure the 4-H members and volunteers get a lot more out of the experience,” she said. “All ages are able to help. Some of our youngest volunteers may not be able to lead horses with riders, but they can hold a baby chick or a bunny for others to pet.”
Cox said about 80 4-H members and volunteers host almost 100 guests from the Ellisville State School and surrounding communities at the event held at the Lamar County Fairgrounds.
Cox said members of this 4-H club enjoy participating in activities that focus on horse shows and riding events, but they are also very active in their community and contribute many hours to community service projects. Their club goal is to empower young people through educational learning activities.
“With the help of adult volunteers, youth gain self-confidence and increased self-esteem through a variety of 4-H activities as well as community-focused events,” she said.
Club President Brandi Korbe said the club is inspired by the 4-H pledge that they recite at every meeting.
“This rodeo is something we could do for our community. We saw a void -- a need in the special-needs community,” Korbe said. “We love being around horses and felt like this would be a good experience for them, too.”
A highlight of the Sweetheart Rodeo is when guests are able to take rides on horses. Side-walkers accompany them around the arena, while a volunteer leads the horse. Other activities include face painting, horse grooming, a crooning corner to sing cowboy songs, and a petting zoo with goats, lambs, ducklings, chicks, a miniature horse, a donkey and rabbits. This year’s Miss Mississippi High School Rodeo Association Queen Mallory Head was available for hugs and autographed pictures.
The Turners and Burners 4-H Club had 177 members and 14 adult volunteers in 2012. They participated in more than 47 events throughout the year.